Friday, March 15, 2013

The longest border crossing - EVER

You forget how absolutely wonderful the first sip of a cold beer can be, until it's 90 degrees and 100% humidity
 - Theresa Porter

March 15 2013 - Siem Reap, Cambodia

Arrived in Sien Reap, Cambodia around 6 p.m. after a nine hour bus ride. Well actually the bus ride was only 7 hours, the Immigration formalities between two third world countries took up two complete hours. But lets start where we left off last.

Around 5 p.m. my internal jet lagged body was screaming for food. I had stayed awake after my three or fours in bed, and then just hung out at the hotel the rest of the day. Later in the afternoon I realized the last meal I had was a scrumptious something I couldn't remember at midnight somewhere over the Gulf of Tonkin.  I ordered a club sandwich. You know one of those triple deckers filled with lettuce, tomato, bacon and ham or turkey slathered in mayonase. What came was not bad, but it's only resemblance to the 'Club' of my mind was the three slices of bread. It did have lettuce and tomato and some mayo the bacon morphed into a fried egg and the ham or turkey became some type of fried fish. It was good, even though it was not quite what I was expecting.

I flounced back uo to my room and fought the jet-lag monster. I was hoping for a Dungeons and Dragons twenty sided die to roll to fight this critter. Alas no D20's were available. I watched the HBO docudrama Game Change about Sarah Palin's run for vice president and at 8 I gave in to the comfort of the pillows. 2 a.m. was the best I could manage. My body said it was noon and time to get up. I did the get up, go back to bed dance until around 6 and gave up to face the day.

Breakfast and then check out followed over the next two hours. Check out was odd, I am still not certain if the Ramada and both charged me for the stay or not. I'll have to check my credit card when I get home I guess. Then the first hurdle of the day came. I asked for a taxi to take me to the bus station to catch a bus to Cambodia.  "Which station? We have two or three." How in the world am I supposed to know ? I'm just a tourist. Finally in some obscure part of the Lonely Planet guidebook I found the right bus station and the trip began.

The taxi got me there easily and I walked into the bus station. Three blocks long with the walls lined with bus companies spaced 20 feet apart. All written in some odd script that even a Rosetta Stone couldn't decipher. I gave up my pride and threw myself to the mercy of the information booth. He turned and pointed to the nearest booth and smiled. I don't know if it was an actual smile or the stupid tourist does it again smile. Either way I said to the woman behind the glass "Cambodia" she said 750 Bhat (around $25) and the bus leaves in 20 minutes. I thought 25 clams was a little much for a ride to the border, but WTF at least I was moving.

At nine sharp we were pulling out and on the road bound for an adventure. The guidebook had all said ride the bust to the border. Get your Visa for Cambodia. Walk across the bridge and catch a taxi to Siem Reap. As it turned out this bus did go all the way to Sien Reap and I'm here to tell you it was a Godsend. The bus was three quarters full and I believe I was the only U.S. citizen on board. Japan, Norway, Poland, China and Russia were all represented.

Orange juice and cake were served along the way. Around 1 p.m. we arrived at the the border.  We first stopped at some Visa getter broker that cost a few dollars more than I had expected. Not enough to kill the trip, just enough for me to say loudly "This is bullshit." I didn't realize the word "Bullshit" was so universally understood. This process ate up two or three cigarettes and lunch on the bus. Next came the exit from Thailand. The actual process was only 30 seconds, the line was an actual 30 minutes. Then came the oddest thing I'd never seen. In the No Mans Land between Thai Immigration and Cambodian Immigration for a quarter mile was clustered with huge hotels / Casino complexes.  Not quite Las Vegas but very plush none the less. I don't know what to make of them. Maybe they are on Indian land.

Finally came the line for Cambodian Immigration. It stretched out of a ovenlike metal tunnel and a block more. The bus driver came up to me and said for 100 Bhat he's have the line taken care of for me. Give him my passport and the 100 and go back and sit in the A/C on the bus. Several of us took advantage of this. Good to his word an hour later my passport was back in hand with all the requsite stamps and stomps.

I'm flying back to Bangkok.

After nine hours we arrived in here in Siem Reap. I caught the first available Remork-moto to my hotel. I had traveled around cities in India in Tuk-Tuks before. Little lawnmower powered death traps that would seat two westerners  and a basketball team of locals. Here their version, the Remork-moto is a covered cart the same size as a tuk-tuk pulled behind a Honda fifty (maybe it is bigger than 50 c.c.) With bugs flying in my eyes and my hair blossoming behind me we sped to the hotel I had reserved.

Big, focused around an huge swimming pool with tour busses in the front yard is my home for tonight. The room is large and the A/C is meager, but it has everything I want so I'm content. Especially after that afore mentioned beer.

Still no pictures.

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